EU Commissioners in bed with business

17 October 2006

Campaigners demand a cut to corporate power over the EU

Brussels, 17th October - Today, Friends of the Earth Europe and the Seattle to Brussels Network demanded that the European Union stops making policy decisions biased towards business interests. Trade and environmental campaigners staged an action outside the annual back-pat of the Confederation of European Business (UNICE) today [1], attended by six European Commissioners and called "Why do companies care about Europe?".

An activist disguised as Commission President Barroso had a cosy meeting with a cigar-smoking "businessman". They sipped champagne in a double bed outside the UNICE day, as attendees of the meeting entered the building. The action highlighted the inappropriately close relations between the EU Commission and the corporate lobby.


Brussels, 17th October 2006: An activist disguised as Commission President Barroso had a cosy meeting with a cigar-smoking "businessman". They sipped champagne in a double bed outside the UNICE day, as attendees of the meeting entered the building. The action highlighted the inappropriately close relations between the EU Commission and the corporate lobby. Photo free of charge. Please credit Friends of the Earth Europe. Click on the photo for a high res version.

Sonja Meister, member of the Seattle to Brussels network and Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Corporate representatives are reassured once again by EU Commissioners why companies should care about Europe - it is because the EU will do its utmost to serve mainly their interests all over the world. This relationship is so cosy that the EU seems to care more about companies than it does about people and the environment."

Paul de Clerck, Transparency and Corporate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, "The European Commission officially says it wants to avoid particular groups getting privileged access. In real life, corporate interests have excessive influence over most areas of EU policy, which can have devastating effects for development and environmental protection." [2]

Yesterday, the Seattle to Brussels network launched a new report:
"Corporate Power over EU Trade Policy: Good for Business, Bad for the World" [3], that details specific examples of corporate lobbyists gaining excessive influence over EU trade policy making. From this report and other recent events, Friends of the Earth Europe and the Seattle to Brussels network have identified several specific examples of the detrimental effects of undue influence of business over EU policy:

* European Commission President Barroso downsized the EU's Lisbon agenda in March 2005 to a "growth and jobs" strategy, seemingly designed purely to reduce costs for industry without any concrete social and environmental goals. Barroso even argued to UNICE that "business needs to become an even louder advocate for change". [4] Barroso will speak at the UNICE Day about the public-private partnership between the EU and European business.

* Corporate lobbyists have often gained excessive influence over EU trade policy making. This problem is analysed in the new report "Corporate Power over EU Trade Policy: Good for Business, Bad for the World", launched yesterday by the Seattle to Brussels network. [3] Corporate lobby activities have resulted in the EU putting undue pressure on developing countries in the WTO negotiations to open up their markets, which would have disastrous effects on social justice, the environment and the fight against poverty. Furthermore, this is contradictory to the "growth and jobs" Lisbon aims, since the EU's position at the WTO has actually supported businesses that have cut jobs worldwide. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, renowned for prioritising the business interests of the EU above all else, will speak at the UNICE Day today in the panel discussion "Why do companies care about a European approach to liberalised trade?".

* The process to produce the chemicals legislation "REACH" shows that the EU puts corporate interests ahead of protecting human health and the environment. REACH was originally designed to address, once and for all, the problem of toxic chemicals contamination. Fierce lobbying by the chemicals industry has resulted in REACH being watered down significantly, to the extent that the Council's most recent proposal offers no improvement over current, deficient, chemicals rules. Enterprise and Industry Commissioner G�nter Verheugen will also speak at the UNICE day today, about why companies should care about Europe. He has prioritised cost reduction for industry, supporting a drastic decrease in the level of safety information that companies will have to provide about chemicals currently on the market. [5]



Brussels, 17th October 2006: An activist disguised as Commission President Barroso had a cosy meeting with a cigar-smoking "businessman". They sipped champagne in a double bed outside the UNICE day, as attendees of the meeting entered the building. The action highlighted the inappropriately close relations between the EU Commission and the corporate lobby. Photo free of charge. Please credit Friends of the Earth Europe. Click on the photos for high resolution versions
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NOTES
[1] http://www.unice.org/Content/Default.asp?PageId=401

[2]
The European Commission is currently reviewing its consultation policies in the course of the European Transparency Initiative. Officially the Commission says it wants to avoid particular groups getting privileged access. http://europa.eu.int/comm/governance/white_paper/index_en.htm

[3] S2B Report: 'Corporate Power over EU Trade Policy: Good for Business, Bad for the World':
http://www.s2bnetwork.org/download/Corporate_power_over_EU_Trade_policy
Media briefing about the report:
http://www.s2bnetwork.org/download/s2bmediabriefing_16_10_06

[4] European Commission President Barroso in a speech on 'The Lisbon Commission' at the UNICE Competitiveness Day, December 9, 2004.

[5] See http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2006/joint_27_June_chemicals.htm
and http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/chemical_industry.pdf